Monday, 6 July 2009

Just around the corner

The safari is lucky enough to have a rather splendiferous butterfly site literally just around the corner. Nothing special but on a good day shed loads. The field used to be where the parks department cut turf for the sports fields and hasn't been fertilised or anything for years, so is effectively a couple of acres of unimproved grassland right in the heart of town. Because of its history for turf it is a little lacking in wildflowers and thus nectaring opportunities slightly reducing the numbers and variety of butterflies. But today there were plenty about in the warm humid conditions and because there was no sun they were slow enough to photograph.
Here we have a mating pair of Small Skippers - thankfully no Essex Skippers here yet to confuse the issue...give it a few years!) . They are on one of my favourite grasses, Timothy - what a great name for a grass. Love that purple colour of the flowers - beautiful.

This is the male with the little black scent brands, wonder what that aftershave smells like?

Another male this time by Extreme Photographer, Raf.

This is another of Raf's, but this time a female Large Skipper. Not that they are actually any bigger than the Small Skippers. Well there might be a millimetre or two in it.

Through the paper thin wings you can see the chequered pattern of the upperside.
My effort at a male Large Skipper. Again note the black stripe of the sex brand. Obviously a different flavour of aftershave otherwise there would be lots of mix-ups.
Total counts were impressive; over 150 Meadow Browns but not a single photo - how did that happen? Nearly 100 Skippers of both species and including the ones to quick to be identified. Four nice and fresh Small Tortoiseshells was a good find as there is some serious concern that their numbers have been serious reduced by an introduced parasitoid fly.
In addition to the butterflies the migrant moth Silver Y was present in decent numbers. Although this one is in warming-up the muscles buzzing mode you can still see why (no pun intended) it is called Silver Y.
A small number of Burnet moths were also on the wing, but we didn't get close enough to discover if they were 6-spots or Narrow Bordered 5-spots. There were obviously more to hatch as this cocoon proved.
One of the Burnets was attacked by this Emperor dragonfly in mid air. They may well be distasteful as the dragonfly dropped it and allowed it to fly off to where-ever it was going.The dragonfly promptly did a circuit of its territory and then disappeared. Amazingly Raf found it laid up in the grass on his transect - almost trod on it!
The supporting cast included interesting species like this grass bug, you can tell by its small wing cases it is not quite a full adult. Not sure of the species.

This Yellow Dung Fly is another of my favourites - don't ask me why cos I have absolutely no idea, I just like em despite what they eat! Crackin' pic by our Extreme Photographer.

The warm, moist weather was great for insect but also brought out a few amphibians too. This Frog is either diseased or injured, hard to tell which although the later would be preferable.
Wouldn't mind putting some mammal traps (Elliot or Longworth - not old fashioned mouse!) out to find out what mammals are living in the area. Occasionally we see Kestrels but they could be after something as mundane as beetles or worms.
Rain stopped play on the butterfly survey front and soaked by a downpour we walked home. As soon as we got back to Base Camp the sun came back out, how annoying is that. But the little rest and a nice cup of tea and a bun in the garden had us looking around to see what there was. Good numbers of Blue Tailed Damselflies over the pond, and plenty of Red Tailed, and White Tailed Bumble Bees. This Hoverfly is doing a good sneaky impersonation of a WTBB. (Sorry I got lazy and couldn't BEE bothered spelling it out again!)

Nearby lurking in the Gladioli was this rather stunning little Spider.

After the rain had stopped we got back out to finish the butterfly survey but unfortunately there wasn't enough prolonged sunshine to see if the local speciality the White Letter Hairstreak was on the wing...and now the forecast has gone rotten for the coming week....dohhhhh. But walking through one of the smaller areas of longer grass was like being in butterfly heaven as myself and Frank ambled through the long grass there were butterflies popping up in front of us like there was no tomorrow, possibly nearly 50 in the air at any one time right under our noses...simply wonderful and a spectacle I will remember for a very, very long time, so much so that anyone passing nearby might have thought I was some sort of nutter talking to myself but actually I was telling Frank how fantastic the sight was!
Sun will have to come out soon though and when it does we'll be surveying those butterflies again.
Where to next? Could be anywhere this week, depends somewhat on the weather..a good blow would be nice to bring in some Storm Petrels - one of the few British breeding Birds I've somehow successfully avoided seeing so far.
In the meantime please let us know how many butterflies you have seen in your outback this week.
PS Watched a documentary about the 'Best Job in the World' - you know that island thingy on the Barrier Reef in Queensland - the other day...I very nearly put an application in for that but it looked to good to be true. Have to keep up with the winners blog and see what I missed out on!
Still no news of that TV programme I had to turn down - wonder what has happened to it....having said that it'll appear in the TV mags next week I bet...looking forward to it anyway!

1 comment:

Monika said...

What a great insect day - fantastic macro photos, too. The variety of butterflies and moths you report is astounding! What a special moment with so many butterflies in the air on your walk with Frank. It reminds me of a page in one of my favorite picture books my parents read me growing up.

I've been paying more attention to butterflies around here, but have only seen a whopping two species on my walk to work, which goes past many gardens. Maybe I'm not looking in all the right places? I'm sure you'll have a much greater variety there no matter how hard I try here on the island!